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Smokey Bear is Turning 70 Years Old!

U of I Archives Ad Council Patron Request

Celebrate Smokey Bear’s birthday with the cool videos and fun facts below:

 

New Smokey Bear 70th Birthday Commercials

 

Smokey Bear through the years:

Here are some fun facts about Smokey Bear, courtesy of CBS News.

THE ‘REAL’ SMOKEY
Smokey Bear’s nascent ad campaign got a boost in 1950 when a real bear cub that had been rescued from a New Mexico wildfire was nursed back to health and sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., as the living Smokey.

STAYING POWER
Smokey Bear was created in 1944 because of fears that America’s enemies would set forest fires while most U.S. firefighters were in battle overseas. When the war ended, Smokey stuck around – and he’s now at the center of the longest-running public service announcement campaign in U.S. history. Research shows he is known by 77 percent of kids and ranks near Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus for name recognition. His creation was a collaboration of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

A SOCIAL ANIMAL
Smokey’s image has evolved over the decades to fit the latest media technology. When he first debuted, TV was in its infancy and posters were hand-drawn. Now, Smokey is a social media connoisseur and prolific blogger, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter (Smokey_Bear), Instagram, YouTube and Flickr. He has more than 300,000 friends on Facebook and 24,000 people follow him on Twitter. Fans can sign a virtual card and upload photos at www.smokeybear.com. People still like to write to Smokey the old-fashioned way, too.

A QUIET BEAR
Smokey traditionally never spoke in his public service messages except for his signature line, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” A series of YouTube videos created around his 70th birthday show Smokey giving silent bear hugs (#SmokeyBearHug) to campers who properly build and extinguish camp fires and safely dispose of used barbeque charcoal, among other things.

SMOKEY IN SPACE
In 2012, an American astronaut heading to the International Space Station chose Smokey Bear as his crew’s mascot. NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba said that he hoped Smokey would help raise public awareness about the dangers posed by forest fires.

WHAT’S IN A NAME
Most people know the finger-pointing fire-safety fanatic as Smokey THE Bear, but in fact there is no “the” in the original name. In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a song in his honor and added a “the” between “Smokey” and “Bear” to keep the rhythm flowing.

A BEAR IN THE CITY
In 2001, Smokey’s public relations team changed his classic line to the more updated phrase, Only You Can Prevent Wildfires and revamped the campaign to address the growing threat of devastating wildfires in suburban and urban areas. Smokey hit the cities with a three-year “refreshed” campaign targeting casual adult hikers, bikers and campers and those living in urban areas adjacent to forest land.

3 Comments on Smokey Bear is Turning 70 Years Old!

  1. In the early 60s I got to see ‘Smokey’ at the National Zoo. I was very excited but very upset by the tiny cage he was kept in.

  2. baseball12 // August 9, 2014 at 9:30 am // Reply

    Cool! I didn’t know all these cool facts.

  3. Avengers Fan // August 9, 2014 at 1:50 pm // Reply

    I like when Smokey gives people hugs when they do something to prevent fires. LOL!

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